EPISODE REVIEW: Stargate Universe: “Subversion” (Season 1, Episode 18)

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With tonight’s episode, SGU officially becomes the best SF show on the air. I’d even go so far as to say what they did tonight is superior to anything we’re seeing out of Lost at the moment, and that’s high praise indeed. This is also the episode where “Universe” finally took it’s own place alongside the previous two Stargate shows as an equal, as opposed to the frustrating departure from form it started out as. And best of all: no musical montages tonight!

Rush is having dream/flashbacks of a time when the communication stones put him in Telford’s body back on earth. He was talking to people in a secluded location, and the people had a Goauld shuttle. Catching his reflection and realizing who he is in the memory, he immediately goes to talk to Young, who’s pretty shocked by the news.

They both realize Telford must have been a mole for the Lucien Alliance, the same group who attacked planet Icarus at the start of this series. The only question is whether or not he’s a willing spy, or a brainwashed one, since the Luciens have the technology to do that, and do it well. Prior to his asignment on Icarus, Telford spent about a year undercover infiltrating the Alliance, during which time 37 people died in a raid that he could have prevented, but he did nothing. Ultimately his actions were supported by the SGC, but they weren’t happy about it.

Rush is sent to Telford’s body the next time Telford uses the communication stones to visit the ship, figuring Telford’s body would make for a great disguise. Young doesn’t really trust Rush, and jumps back to earth as well, to inform General O’Neil about the whole situation. For all both of them know, Rush is the mole trying to frame Telford. Jack assigns Daniel Jackson (!) to shadow Rush, and once Rush manages to make contact with the Luciens, his cover is immediately blown. He’s tasered and taken aboard their shuttle, and they leave.

A Lucien lady tries to get Rush to tell who he is, saying she’s not adverse to killing Telford’s body since his cover is blown anyway and he’s of no further use. Rush tries to hold out, and lies convincingly - he’s really good at that - but she’s too experience for him. Ultimately he gives in and admits who he is, and she’s quite happy to have him on board. She takes him to an Icarus-like planet they’ve found, where they’re working on dialing the Destiny for some as-yet-unexplained purpose.

Meanwhile, on the Destiny, Young is sweating the truth out of Telford, and they even bring O’Neil in for a moment or two. Camille is not at all happy about this, and keeps trying to butt in, but she’s kept out of it. Ultimately Telford comes clean and gives a little rant about how earth is culpable for freeing billions of people from the Goauld, but giving them no means to support or defend themselves, and how the Lucien Alliance is doing what’s necessary to survive.

Young locks Telford in his cabin, and has them gradually vent the air out.
“You won’t kill me, it means you’d be killing Rush too!”
“Yes, I know, but I’m thinking of the greater good.”
The air runs out…

Oh, and there was a Baby Shower on the ship as well.

The End.

OBSERVATIONS

Man oh man, where to begin? There was just so much good stuff here. I know a lot of people have complained about the stones, and even though I understand why they were using them in the early episodes, I think they were overused as well, but lately they’ve been used to much better impact. In tonight’s episode, I think they’re about as good as it’s ever been done, here or in SG1.

Young and Telford used to be friends. The Destiny was supposed to be Telford’s reward for his undercover work, but fate intervened, and he’s pretty upset about it. He interfered with Young’s wife to get back at him, and it’s pretty much confirmed that the two of them are having an affair now. Telford didn’t file assault charges against Young for the beat down he got like ten episodes back. He says this was benevolence, but Young points out that it would be disaster for his career if the circumstances got out. By the way, much as I like Telford as a recurring villain here, it’s been a Loooooooong time since we’ve seen him - what? Twelve episodes or so? - which diminishes some of the impact here.

They make up for that in other ways, though.

Something fairly obvious to me, but not touched on in the episode is that the Lucien Alliance wants the episode, and Telford, who’s working for the alliance, was supposed to get command of it. This is clearly not a coincidence, but why? Why do they want it? What are they hoping to get from a ship a kerjillion lightyears away with no hope of getting home again? I think they know something about the ship that ‘we’ don’t know, and I wonder what it is.

It seems obvious to me that contact between the Milky Way and the Destiny will be established - albeit briefly - in the next two episodes, and I’m wondering if we’ll see any cast changes as a result. Telford, obviously, is dead meat, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if TJ leaves the show. They’re kind of setting that up already, with her concerns about child rearing on a near-derelict. I think she will leave the cast, frankly, and I assume they’ll probably bring in one or two cast members as well.

I love the SG1 quasi-cameo in this episode: We’ve got Jack and Daniel (Didn’t expect Daniel, and it’s nice to see Jack acting like Jack again), we get a name check for Carter, but where the heck is Teal’c? Did Christopher Judge put on three hundred pounds, or lose an ear or something? Seriously.

And finally we know why the fighter pilot couldn’t have been someone like Cam or Sheppard: Because he’s a bad guy, and we can’t have any of them corrupted. They’re heroes. Plus, Telford’s a wad, and neither of them would act like him. I begrudged the show not using more SG characters, but as I learn more and more why they did it, I’m happier and happier. That said, I really would like some appearances by other SG1 cast (Cam, Vala, Landry) or the SGA cast (Sheppard, Rodney, maybe Doctor Keller, though everyone besides me hates her, it seems). I realize the reason here is that SGU is trying to win back viewers who left during the Fargate/SGA years, but I don’t like pretending 60% of the SGC doesn’t exist.

That said, I doubt we’re ever going to see the Cheyenne Mountain complex again.

I’m so happy all this tied back in with the three part premier, and it’s appearing the season will have a four-part finale: this ep, the official two-parter following it, and the resolution at the start of next season. There’s a sense of completion here, and also a sense that this was all thought out, that they’re not just winging it, that there were wheels within wheels before the show began, and these characters just sort of walked into the middle of it. As far back as episode 1, Carter made reference to “Our friends in the Lucien Alliance” giving them information. That might have been a reference to old info from Telford, or some other undercover spies.

For those who wandered away before SGU started, the Lucien Alliance were a recurring villain group during the last two seasons of SG1, basically a mafia using Goauld tech. In this version of things, they’re seeming more like the IRA or PLO, or some other terrorist force that sees themselves as liberators. It’s not uncommon that such groups also sponsor organized crime to get funds and connections. In any event, the Alliance seems to be a much bigger threat than they were previously.

So why do Telford’s brain transfers leave a memory trace and no one else’s do? By the way, the scenes of Young wearing down Telford with graphic stories of the deaths of people on Icarus was pretty great.

Is it just me, or is Camille an utterly useless character? Thus far on the show she's been as duplicitous and manipulative and scheming as Rush, but she's got absolutely no useful skills or good qualities to offset her evil, and I find myself really wishing she gets off the show when TJ does. I imagine Lesbian groups are furious about her depiction, but, eh. Whatreyagonnado?

I can not *wait* to see the next two episodes!

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